London - Dog owners speak to their canine companions like babies may get baffled looks from their pet-free friends – but a study has found the animals may love you more for it.
It is thought dogs have learned that those who use a soppy tone to address them are more likely to take care of them.
The study’s lead author, PhD student Alex Benjamin, said: "We found that adult dogs were more likely to want to interact and spend time with the speaker that used dog-directed speech with dog-related content."
Researchers at the University of York took more than 30 pet dogs and played them samples of normal and dog-directed speech from speakers held in the laps of two researchers. The dog-directed speech included phrases such as ‘you’re such a good dog’ in a sing-song voice.
The animals spent 15 seconds looking at the person holding the speaker playing doggy talk, and only around seven seconds looking at the other researcher.
A second experiment switched the voices, so that doggy talk was used to speak about everyday things, while the normal voice said phrases praising the animals. This time they showed no preference, suggesting dogs not only prefer to hear speech in a tone they appreciate, but also words that relate to them.
The study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, suggests that dog-directed speech might help build the relationship between a pet and owner. The authors state: "Dog-directed speech may have provided dogs with a reliable cue that indicates safe social partners at a time when joining human groups may have been dangerous."